The Five Core Patterns Of Conversion Marketing

How many basic web patterns are there? If you were to boil every web site down to a set of core species, how many would you list? Would there be 500 basic types? 100? 50?

How about five?

Conversion scientists require some categorization and classification to do their job well. This allows us to simplify rather complex concepts, easing communication with each other and with you. It gives us a common vocabulary with which to work.

For example, if you can tell me which of five patterns your web site fits into, I can tell you with some accuracy which three strategies you should implement first to maximize your conversion rates. From one word springs an entire online marketing plan. That is the power of classification.

Over my next five posts for Conversion Science, I’m going to help you identify your core web site pattern and tell you what disciplines you can’t get wrong if you want to turn visitors into leads and sales.

The ground rules

Before I define the five web site patterns, let’s lay some ground rules for the ensuing debate.

  • We are focused on business-oriented web sites designed to increase sales for a business, no matter how indirect the effect.
  • A web site pattern is distinct from its implementation. A blog is not a web site pattern, since many patterns could be implemented using a blog structure.
  • A new pattern is defined as a type of web site that requires a set of online strategies substantially different from the existing patterns to be successful.

I welcome your input on new web species that may exist in the wild. Here is the first of the five basic patterns which I look for when advising a client.

The Brochure pattern

Also known as the “sales support” pattern, the brochure web site is modeled after the glossy print publications that have been created by businesses for decades, and ignored by 99.99% of those who have received them.

Often presented in tri-fold fashion, the brochure is the appetizer of marketing. Its sole purpose is to provide enough information to whet the desire of a prospective customer and tell them how to get more information.

Likewise, its online counterpart is designed to provide little truly valuable information, but to make the sponsoring company look like it has its act together. In this sense, the primary quality of a brochure site is safety.

You have, or desire a brochure site if you answer yes to the following statements:

  • When you decided to create or refresh your web site, you called a web designer first.
  • You spent a great deal of time huddled over a tree-like map of your future web site. This is called an “information architecture.”
  • The copy for the site was reviewed and edited by several people, most of whom were not professional writers. This copy inevitably declares you as the “leader” in something or espouses the ethereal “difference” you offer.
  • Your site contains at least one stock photo of a very happy or very serious person, whom your designer thinks your visitors will admire.
  • Your site avoids the words “you” or “your,” but talks incessantly about what your company and products do. This feature culminates in the ever-popular “News” section of the home page with more information about you.
  • You get your sales leads from anyplace but the web and you have no need to change this.

Don’t be fooled by my snootiness. The Brochure pattern is an important pattern for many businesses. Just because everyone uses the web doesn’t mean that every business should be trying to generate leads and sales there.

The Brochure site has only to make the visitor feel comfortable sharing the site with their boss and with others who are a part of the any purchase decision. No controversy should ever enter into a brochure site. It has to look good. It has to present benefits and features. It has to provide contact information. That’s about it.

The primary goal of the brochure site is to make sure the prospect can find you when they are ready to make a decision. A “conversion” is a phone call or an email.

The three “must get right” conversion strategies for a Brochure business are:

  • The design must be what the visitors want to see. Your design must be professional for people who ware suits to work. It must be fun for creative businesses. It must look unprofessional if you sell hand-crafted products. It must be exciting for adventure-oriented businesses. This is why you call the designer first.
  • It should feature logical tree-like navigation. Since your visitors aren’t really trying to solve a pressing problem, and since they really don’t care that much about what they’re reading, you should organize the content in as logical a manner as possible, so you don’t look sloppy. Those irritating menus that “fly-out” when your cursor accidentally rolls over them are also fine on a brochure site.
  • The contact information must be easy to find. The primary role of a brochure site is to support a sale after the salesperson has been contacted. Think of it as a “leave behind.” Put your phone number on each page and have a simple, clear “Contact Us” page.

The Brochure site is the primary pattern found among business web sites. This is unfortunate, because too many businesses put up brochure sites when they really are counting on the web for sales leads. The result is a site that isn’t a good brochure site, and isn’t a good lead-generation site either.

For example, marketers will optimize their brochure site for search, but see little positive effect because a brochure site is a terrible tool for cold visitors. What these marketers want is a site built on the considered purchase pattern, which we will discuss in part four of this series.

Brochure sites are efficient. Marketers only need to update them when their product lines change, when new news is published, or when they get a new VP of Marketing, who will inevitably want to refresh the site to show how quickly they’re making progress.

The four remaining web site patterns

I’ll next venture into the Portal pattern, a site in which the content takes center stage, and then explore the key conversion strategies for the eCommerce Pattern, the Considered Purchase Pattern and the Site as a Service Pattern. Read on in The Portal Pattern: Core Conversion Marketing Strategies.

I’ll be posting to the Conversion Science column every four weeks, so you should subscribe to the Conversion Science email (tick the box next to the column description, enter your email address and click subscribe), or get the column feed now if you don’t want to miss the next four patterns.

Many of you are going to be surprised at which pattern you end up choosing for your business.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Conversion


About The Author: is the Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences and author of Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Forumulas of The Conversion Scientist. Follow Brian at The Conversion Scientist blog and on Twitter @bmassey

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  • Stupidscript

    Once per MONTH?!? I have to wait 4 MONTHs before you get to the “Considered Purchase” pattern?!? Yeesh. And the pattern you chose to begin with, the”Brochure” pattern, doesn’t even concern itself with conversions! If your writing were more irritating, this would be less so. Unfortunately, I very much enjoyed this little blurb of an article, and so I am anxiously awaiting your next missives.

    I would have ordered the series according to the interests of Conversion Science readers, as I see them:

    1) eCommerce (most common among normal site owners who give a darn about conversions);
    2) Considered Purchase (second-most common);
    3) Site as a Service (emerging);
    4) Portal (who has one of those besides Yahoo, et al.?) and finally
    5) The lazy bum of the group, Brochure (newbies and others who are not on board with what “conversion” means or how important it is).

    Maybe you could write all of the sections and push them out using the feed, while still maintaining your release schedule for article publication on the main site? Or possibly posting them on ConversionScientist? I’m just trying to get to the meat of it before too much time passes and the 5 Core Patterns evolve into the 12 Core Patterns … which would take a YEAR to write about!

  • Brian Massey


    If I wrote about the popular patterns up front, who would to stick around for the poor Brochure and Portal patterns?

    Your input is heard (though I’m just seeing this). I hope you’ll find the Portal helpful, though it’s the “obvious” pattern. eCommerce is next.


  • Cameron Madill

    Nice post, Brian. Thanks for sharing with us. I have a few questions:

    Do you consider this to be a pattern, or just a failed implementation of one of the other four patterns?

    If you can with some confidence recommend which three strategies you should start with to optimize your site for conversion based on the pattern of your website, it raises this question: if you have a master list of conversion strategies that you walk through to optimize a website? Seems like that could be useful…

    As you address different patterns, can you share information about how to push different strategies through objections by different stakeholders? I feel like one of the biggest obstacles to conversion optimization becoming truly mainstream is the difficulty in convincing stakeholders to invest in it.


  • Brian Massey


    Just seeing your comment.

    The Brochure pattern is often a failed implementation, and many businesses should be choosing one of the other patterns. However, it has its place. In particular, if a business doesn’t want to generate leads or sales via the Web, this pattern can be right for them. Businesses that want to appeal only to investors, press, and other influencers will do fine with a Brochure site.

    Your question regarding pushing strategies through organizational stakeholders is best addressed by a good set of personas. Personas profile specific visitors, their informational needs, and their decision-making modes. When you can say, “The Mark persona is expecting this feature,” the reason becomes clearer for everyone involved in the internal decision-making process.

    I don’t have a master list of strategies, but I am developing a series called “The Elements of Conversion.” Watch for it on The Conversion Scientist blog at


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